The Granite Tower
FOREIGN REPORTFOREIGN REPORT
Excavating the Underlying Secrets of Magical Success of the Silicon Valley
Chang Hae Sun  |  esther91@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2014.04.06  18:27:04
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Google, Apple, and Facebook, the leading companies of the United States (U.S.) all share one thing in commontheir hometown. They were all born in the Silicon Valley, in which radical ideas can be pushed forward, experimented with, and finally realized. Here, the famous catchphrase for commercials of the German sports brand Adidas seems not all that impossible. Really, “Impossible is nothing” in the Silicon Valley. There seems to be no limit to the possibility of fairytales flowing out of the valley.

 

   

▲ Facebook, the one which opened the era “social network”. Provided By Facebook

   
▲ Google, one of the world’s most powerful company originally founded by two Stanford students. Provided By Google

   
▲ Apple, an icon of creativity and innovation. Provided By Apple.

In fact, the recent revival of the U.S. economy largely owes to the successful moves made by the aforementioned IT-based companies born in the Silicon Valley. Since 2008, the U.S. has gone through the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression in the early 1930s, which might be the reason why it is often referred to as the “Great Repression.” This financial crisis, or the Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis to put it in broader terminology, led to the downfall of some of the major investment banks that once were considered to be almost infallible, such as Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.

After learning all the facts, figures, and stories surrounding the valley, which is located near the San Francisco Bay in northern California, a simple question born out of sheer curiosity begins to gradually grow in our minds–“What is the secret?” Experts, journalist, students, and scholars have all wondered what the driving force behind this superb achievement is. Similarly, the valley has recently become the center of enormous attention by countries worldwide, which are all so eagerly trying to emulate this special yet small community.

Until now, Silicon Valley has more traditionally been recognized as a sort of the icon of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship with the spirit of adventure and challenge. The epitome of this would be the former CEO and the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. Even after his death, he is still celebrated as more of a creative artist full of imagination and vision than a mere engineer or a businessman.

This, in part, largely owes itself to a so-called “cluster” that has been formed through the course of the development of the Silicon Valley. The term “cluster,” which more specifically refers to an industrial cluster in this sense, is a sort of integrated complex in which different firms and organizations, including research institutes, educational institutions, and financial or consulting institutions, are all located within the boundaries of small region to create a synergy effect. Not so surprisingly, Silicon Valley has been the most representative of the successfully yet naturally developed cluster.

The intimate network that has been developed between the Valley and neighboring universities, such as Stanford and UC Berkeley, is well known. This contributing ecosystem in terms of human resources has made it possible for the Valley to enjoy abundant inflow of bright, intelligent, and smart “geeks”, so to speak.

Yet, more recently, a different analysis about the valley, one which sheds light on it from a fresh, new perspective, has newly arisen and gained popularity among both scholars and experts. While the previous viewpoint mostly focused on single, exceptional individuals, the current prism of the interpretation approaches it in a more connected, collective, and communal way.

The value of Silicon Valley does not limit itself to the field of entrepreneurship or start-ups, but can very much be extended to the idea of building a vibrant, connected, and competitive yet fair model of society, especially through its distinctive culture of sharing and openness.

A young American professor, Adam M. Grant, is one of those scholars to newly illuminate the Valley as a desirable model for a strongly interconnected, vibrantly communicating, and openly sharing community. As the youngest to become a tenured professor at the prestigious Wharton School, he recently published a book titled Give and Take, which convincingly deals with the universal theme that success goes one who shares and cares. By being designated as a bestseller by both Amazon and the New York Times, the book so far has been raising a fairly amusing revolt, so to speak, in that it has gained both wide popularity and credibility in a world that once seemed to no longer be so generous.

In the book, he basically classified people we encounter in our daily lives into three distinct categories: “taker,” “matcher,” and “giver.” “Takers” are people who would only try to “take” from others, whether it might be physical goods or intangible ideas, without giving anything in return. “Matchers” are those who would make an attempt to “match” up to what had been given to them, by strictly following the principle of reciprocity. While the two seems to rightly fall under the long held understanding of human beings that they are self-interested animals with intrinsically coded “selfish genes,” “givers” are different of a kind. “Givers” are those few people who would willingly and preferably give than to remain sitting and receive.  

In an interview with the Weekly Biz, the weekend magazine published by the Chosun Ilbo, he said, “The vast majority of people whom I interviewed all commonly replied that the Valley has more “givers” than any other place they have previously resided.” Yet, the intriguing fact is that, to be precise, the number of givers itself does not differ greatly from other places. The difference is made by the fact that there are more “actions” of sharing in the Silicon Valley, a fact that urges the takers and matchers to adapt themselves to a giver in this particular place.

In the era of endless competition, where the survival of the fittest is accepted as the common notion, the idea that the act of sharing actually results in greater success could be met with a bit of a suspicion. However, the equation of both survival and success seems to be gradually evolving into a more humanistic one where a person who dares to show his or her willingness to help gets greater opportunities for achievements.

In a nutshell, the Silicon Valley, which is located on the corner of the continent across the Pacific Ocean, now has to be understood and looked at form a point of view that is not only economic and practical but also surprisingly humanistic. In parallel with this line of thought, the once-seemingly-boring subject of “social integration” can be approached in a much more friendly, dynamic, and innovative way through the lens of this one-of-a-kind valley where the spirit of adventure and culture of sharing breathes the same air.  

   

▲ The snapshot of the lobby of the office of Google Dublin. Provided By Google

   
▲ The map of the Silicon Valley with its representative companies marked. Provided by dukechronicle.

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